It’s hard to describe how I feel sometimes. About a year has passed since I last posted a blog, since I left my job teaching preschool to work in an office, since I turned 27. I think of writing often. I think about the writing I did as a child. I was always telling stories about historical events that fascinated me, placing myself as a character within the midst of chaos. As a child I survived the sinking of the Titanic, trudged through the trenches of war, and even made it through a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. That part of me started early: the curiosity of someone else’s shoes. How could I understand if I wasn’t there? The only way to try was to write it.
I think about the writing I did in high school. It was morose and vague. There was poetry about dead birds, rifles, and a boy that was never good for me, because what else was I to write about as a teenage girl? And then there were the snips and snaps that started to happen; the characters that I knew too well becoming the center of each new piece. An idea that perhaps, I was not just an avid reader but also someone with a voice, whatever that voice was.
I think about the writing I did in college. An 8-page analysis of one line in Heart of Darkness that was probably entirely wrong. Stories littered with my past and present. An unfulfilled need to move, move, move. That was always clear.
I always moved. From town to town; from house to house; from person to person; from thing to thing. My roots have never quite settled in one place, yet once I’ve left that place they seem to stretch back as if grasping for mossy rocks or solid ground to hold onto them. A search for something new was always at the forefront of what I wrote, yet my words were set deeply in nostalgia.
I think about how I don’t write now. I don’t write myself out of danger, or out of love, or out of the murky past. I don’t make up names and plots to faces I already know. I don’t even write the images that flitter through my brain.
You know what I write about now? I write about apartments, and how qualified I am for a job, and my five year goals. I write that we should catch up and that things are good and miss you sometimes.
I miss me.
There’s an image I still see some days. It’s of me sitting in a desk amongst classmates, my high school English teacher with my paper in his hands. He has just finished reading and it is quiet, my cheeks are flushed and I’m terrified. And then he nods, and someone else smiles, and my paper is back on my desk and someone else stands in front of the class. My cheeks cool off and I can see clearly again, and I feel good.
I miss me.
Or maybe it’s just that I miss what I used to believe me to be. I was a girl who wrote and wrote well. I was a girl with a voice and a passion for telling stories. I wanted to tell my stories. I wanted to live my stories, like Alice falling into that rabbit hole and landing in a foreign world. I still want to live stories, but I don’t tell them anymore. Not like that.
Recently my boyfriend told me that for someone as scared as I was to share my art, myself, I sure could be judgmental about other art. I suppose it goes hand in hand. Those who can’t, teach. Those who don’t, judge. It’s a viscous, jealous cycle and I don’t know where it stops.
When I started writing tonight, it was all about tips on how to have a good day back in the office after a 3-day weekend. Your typical listicle of overly obvious things you could do to have a good day. And I was bored and sad. Who am I to tell anyone how to enjoy being at work when I just had a tediously miserable day? Why would I write something so uninteresting? I’ve been writing what I think I’m supposed to in a blog. I’m supposed to be witty and snarky and offer valuable insight to your life. But I don’t have it in me today. Today, I just want to write without trying to impress anyone. Younger me didn’t want to give you advice, she just wanted to write something a little sad, and a little sweet. Because that’s me. It’s a big part of me. And it’s the me that I miss.
So here I am, sitting on my couch, sipping a G&T and daydreaming about summer afternoons laying in the park grass in Lancaster and you were there, and you were there, and I was there. We couldn’t read this post online and it probably would have been posted to my Easyjournal which ceases to exist anymore. Thoughts my teenage self put out into the world are now lost in an endless realm of coding, bad URLs and time. But here I’ll put them back out there. I wish to be more than I have been, and I’m terrified but I feel good.
I’ve been saying a lot of goodbyes lately. Not see-ya laters, really, but farewells--the probably won’t see you agains. To people I’ve known for more than three years now. That’s longer than I’ve known my current roommates, my boyfriend, some of my close friends; that’s also more than half of the people I’m saying my goodbyes to’s lives. Yes, I’m talking about kids. Yes, they’re going to kindergarten! And yes, it’s time.
Some of us have been over each other for a while. They’ve outgrown me and our school and the younger kids to follow. I’ve gotten to my wit’s end with their newly found love of sarcasm and know-it-all-ness. But these goodbyes are different than ones you would have with people you’ve had relationships with for three years. They’re going to forget me.
This year is the toughest of the three I’ve been teaching at this school, because these little nuggets were my first group, the only ones I’ve seen the whole way through school. In three years they’ve grown out of diapers, learned how to draw superheroes and ninjas versus scribbles, and finally understand the difference between a question and a statement. I’ve learned their habits and characteristics, their flaws and shining moments, just like they know me and my habits, and my likes and dislikes. They know my moods and the things that really tick me off as well as many of my family and friends. They know I don’t like peanut butter and that I like to sit in the blue chair at lunch. They remember when and how I broke my foot almost two years ago, and they harass me about having a boyfriend regularly. They know that singing “Party rockin’ in the house tonight...” is the fastest way to drive me insane. We have inside jokes and rituals together. All of those things they’ll forget.
I’m not saying I won’t forget, too. I will. And then I’ll hear a name I haven’t in a while, and I might think of one of them. I’ll think of Cars 2 and remember Graham’s frustration that someone had Cars-themed diapers and he did not (the injustice!). I’ll give someone the “I’m watching you” gaze and think of Caleb. A text message full of emotions will flash me back to naptime with Pirjo, and summer barbecues will remind me, always, about how Lorena called me Jayne Watermelon.
These little people spend more time with me than almost anyone else in my life. Forty hours a week, every week, for three years adds up to 6,240 hours. 6,240 hours of tantrums, hugs, and whys. 374,400 minutes of drawing, dancing, and singing. 22,464,000 seconds of love, frustration, and laughter that they have given.
Our goodbyes are for good. And I’m proud of them: they’re so old! They’ll visit, for a while, but you never have quite the same bond when they come back--catching up with six and seven year olds is a relatively one-sided conversation, and the familiarity of spending every day with each other fades quickly. They replace you with new friends and teachers and activities and knowing how to read, and you replace them with new kids in diapers. So it goes.
A weekend away from Philadelphia is kind of a necessity after dealing with the so- called charm of the city for any significant amount of time, but a weekend in the suburbs is way different than a visit to NYC or a trek "down the shore" (which don't even get me started about that saying). A weekend in the suburbs makes me simultaneously feel two ways:
A weekend in the suburbs is staying at a B&B where you make your own breakfast and don't make the bed. It's nostalgia wrapped up in Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. Poke my belly and tell me it's real. It's the cheesy filling of a Tostito's Pizza Roll. It's the whipped coolness of a Starbucks Mocha Frappucino. It's the ethnic diversity you find at Trader Joe's/Giotto's/Jose's. Have I given you enough commercial metaphors yet to get where I'm going with this? I’m not really going anywhere.
It's the kind of good you feel bad about, or the kind of safe that makes you restless. It's what I'm always writing about and can't get away from.
But mostly, it's two things again: it's me and it's not me. It's where I come from, what I grew up with, and what I ran away from. There's strip after strip filled with tanning salons, Smoothie Kings, and Pizza Huts, betwixt big open yards with clean non-city grass and roads without potholes! I made tacos with a seasoning packet rather than trying to get the right mix of spices on my own and I ate prepackaged guacamole rather than mashing up fresh avocados and it felt just fine. Because, really, I ate tacos which is the same thing I would have been doing in Philadelphia, or in New York, or pretty much anywhere I could have gone.
The point is I love tacos? Absolutely! And maybe that regardless of the location, or the ingredients, the company (and the air conditioning) makes all the difference. And I guess also that vacations are always about food. That’s not it.
There's a characteristic of suburban sprawl that can make every town seem just like every town you've been to before. It's the boring version of Invisible Cities, lacking the mystery and charm of ancient cities and landscapes that most people only see on each month's calendar image. And I think that's what strikes me the most when I step away from my city footprints and revisit any town similar to the ones I grew up in: the wanderlust, the dichotomy of needing to feel safe yet wanting to explore beyond myself and the places I know so well. Going "home" only makes me want to see more.
Have any of you guys come to the inevitable mid-twenties decision that it’s finally, really, actually [going to do it this] time to get your shit together? I’m talking like you’ve spent the last eleven or so months laying around with your boyfriend smooching and binge-watching Breaking Bad and Scandal, smoking pack after pack of cigarettes and drinking bottle after bottle of tequila, putting off that whole finding a new job thing and then all of a sudden it’s the beginning of summer and you’ve got to find a new apartment, find a new job, arrange travel plans to go wish your grandfather a happy 90th birthday that requires renting a car and driving across the state, start getting back in shape AND quit smoking but also realizing that although you have to do all of this, you have NO CREDIT? Cause that’s what I’m going through.
Here’s the thing: some of it’s great. Forreal. I haven’t smoked in three days. I’ve gone on three runs and completed about three hours of yoga since Sunday. I feel great (minus the nicotine cravings that get really intense on that trolley ride home)! I’m getting healthy! I’ve also eaten an entire bag of gummy bears and gulped so much seltzer down that my body is approximately 90% sugar and bubbles right now. Baby steps. Oh, and that apartment thing: I’ve got a great one, one to share with the person I love, one to make into a home; if only the landlord would send over that lease. Again, baby steps.
Here are the downsides:
But that’s the thing. Summertime I want to drink and eat crappy hotdogs off the grill with my friends, and cigarettes go hand in hand with that. I want to spend my weekends hiking or swimming or visiting my family, and applying for jobs and credit cards is a drag.
You might be thinking, “Hey, Jayne, getting your shit together is never fun,” to which I would agree. But summer’s a whole different enchilada. I got spoiled as a kid. Three whole months off just to ride my bike around and go to the pool and eat french fries every day? Never having school on my birthday?! I mean, DREAM TOWN. So I know I’m complaining about nothing new, like usual, and most of the time I’m content enough with the maturation process. Today, I’m just craving a bit more youthfulness. Any of you got any hints at growing old with grace?
In the meantime, I’ll just be sitting in my floppy straw hat on the front porch, waiting for Peter Pan to show up with some elixir of youth. That’s how it works, right? Fifty bucks a vial, no wrinkles for awhile.
I’ve gotten a bit of a bad rap from my roommate James about being somewhat two dimensional; he even suggested I turn my blog into the two sides of me: Judgy Jayne and Jelly Jayne.
Judgy Jayne comes out a lot around the apartment, probably because it’s easy to sit up on the porch with a beer and talk about everyone that walks by. In fact, this is one of my favorite Philly pastimes. Seriously though, sweatpants to work: not okay. Sweatpants to the corner store: probably a bad idea. Sweatpants at the airport: unacceptable. I’ve still got a few Southern ways in me and dressing down to travel is off limits. I refuse to arrive at someone’s home after not seeing them for years wearing sweatpants with Juicy written across the ass. Actually, I never want the word juicy to be written across my ass. There is no Juicy Jayne! (Except when I’ve got a plethora of carrots and the energy to clean all kajillion pieces of my juicer.)
Jelly Jayne might be a little more endearing? Some of you probably recognize this one from South Park: Wendy is so jelly after photoshopping the appearance of another “not so attractive” gal from the fourth grade and all the boys start fighting over said photoshopped girl after the picture is leaked online. But I can’t help it that I’m jealous of the girl and guy up on stage that got to kiss my boyfriend, or that I never want to hear about your dating past EVER, or that everyone on facebook is going on vacation and I’m stuck in Philthy Philadelphia indefinitely! Some things aren’t fair!
But guys. After an evening of botching up cover letters where I'm supposed to sum myself up in a list of positive adjectives, I'm starting to lose my mind. There are many sides of me. Take for instance my most common side, Jittery Jayne. It usually comes out after a full french press pot of coffee and the buildup of years worth of anxiety. Actually, this side probably comes out most days of my life. Oh, my hands are shaking? I’m used to it.*
Then there’s Jiggly Jayne. We all probably have days where we’re something of this nature: Blubbery Barbara, Dumpy Daisy, Portly Portia. You know what I’m talking about. Fat days are the worst, but also the best. Because on my fat days, you can bet I’m not saying no to a second slice of pizza or that Twix bar in the checkout line.
The most rare form is the endangered Jolly Jayne: if you catch this side, take a picture please so I don’t forget that some days I’m happy! Carefree! In the mood to run and jump and hug you if I see you on the sidewalk! Oh my god the sky is beautiful and the flowers are blooming and I’m gonna climb that tree because TODAY I CAN.
But watch out! Here comes G-G-G-Jayne: the lady that doesn’t want to shave. And I’m still going to wear shorts.
Finally, I’ll mention Judicial Jayne. I would say she’s the one that likes things to be fair, but usually that ends up determining which toddler had the troll with the pink hair first. Sometimes she mediates, and most of the time she listens to your side of whatever story you’ve got to get out of your system. But she’s easily distracted, probably by her Judgy/Jelly self.
It’s hard to describe yourself as one type of person without contradicting yourself with another. (And j-adjectives kind of suck.) It's also really hard to create a resume or cover letter that shows the charming/creative/innovative/passionate/dynamic/headcase you are accurately. If you've read any of my previous entries, it's probably clear that I'm a lister, but when it comes to listing "organized, mature, self-starter, great communication skills," I start to freeze up. I'd rather list to you the things I love (coffee, bunny rabbits, ceramic tiles), the ideas I'm passionate about (art education, healthy eating options for all, universal healthcare, Twin Peaks), and so forth rather than tell you what I think you want to hear about me as a person.
I’ve seen a lot of articles titled things like “Who I am and Why” and “What I do and Why,” or you know, a more clever version of exactly that. But really we’re all just people: so judgy or jelly or jolly or jiggly (or, you know, creative or organized or a great leader)-- I can think of words for each of those starting with most letters of the alphabet. The real point is that some days I feel jealous, and so does everyone else. Some days I feel fat, and so does everyone else. Some days I just want to make fun of a stupid outfit and I know I’m not alone! And some days I want to stop trying to convince you that I'm the best person for the job. Please stop defining people into ones and twos, please stop making life about how well we can write a list about ourselves, and please, for the love of god, stop wearing sweatpants in public.
*This post inspired by Jittery Jayne
What do you want to be when you grow up? a four year old asked me. He was mimicking, as that’s something we ask and suggest to them every day. His options are vast: ninja today, astronaut tomorrow. Some of the girls veer towards princess. Most people don’t become princesses, I say. But Grace Kelly did! That’s not what you’re supposed to remember about her.
She was kind! Remember: she was kind.
They ask me back, maybe because I’m small, or because I look young, or maybe because they can see the general realm of confusion that permeates through my skin. Who knows? It’s a question I still get, only as I get older, the question becomes more embarrassing, and even harder to answer.
It’s been a wacky few weeks, full of head bugs and witches and busy schedules and snow and sun and fighting and making up and slipping on spinach and now a blatant disregard for comma use. But there’s been one topic of conversation that has come up over and over. It’s this thing a lot of people like to call the Quarter Life Crisis. I’m renaming it to the Mid-Twenties Slump.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is more about being scared. I’m scared to give up on my dreams: the ones that still seem to change from day to day, the ones that I’m not even sure are real, because the people that I love the most are still struggling to accomplish theirs, and I’m scared of how I will look to them if I agree to a job in an office, filing papers and answering telephones and leaving the idea of publishing a novel or starting a ceramics business in the past. I’m also scared to pursue my dreams: because they keep changing, because they make no money, because what if I fail and I finally realize that I’m not as good at all those things I was told I was good at as a kid.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is when you realize that you’re no longer a recent graduate, and that the line markers that were set up for you as a kid, as a young adult, as a recent graduate, have yet to be achieved. It’s when you realize that other people are passing right by you and you’re treading water in the same place, with the same job, with the same problems that you can’t seem to fix.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is when you start asking yourself how important is it to have a job that you love, and why? When you actually start worrying about health insurance and benefits and realizing that you still don’t completely understand how a 401k works. It’s when you realize that you’re working a job that you will never be able to retire from because you are never able to save more than a hundred dollars a month; that you will always have to live in an apartment or house with multiple roommates in order to make rent; that you haven’t taken a real vacation since you were in college; that you will never make 35k a year. It’s when you start questioning your worth, and then wondering why humans mark their value in the amount of money they bring home each year.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is not strictly relegated to those in their mid-twenties.
The things that I’m passionate about, that many of the people I love are passionate about, are not things that our society tends to place value on. Making art is not as important as being able to sell things to the general public. It’s hard for me to understand how anyone can be passionate about marketing, or you know, passionate about selling a particular brand of floss. Why is it that manipulation is often more valued than creating beautiful things?
Then again, maybe I just don’t understand. Because people are passionate about everything. Some people find punching numbers exhilarating or the font used on an advertisement just right. Others want nothing more than to plate the perfectly cooked steak every single order. And some see the beauty in cleaning and organizing, in meticulously kept files, in bunsen burners and beakers.
I just happen to find the glaze on a ceramic bowl mesmerizing. I like sad songs you can’t dance to and headstands after a long day. And I, no matter how many times I lose sight of it, will always find joy in watching and listening to people, searching for the middle of every story, the meat with the bones still in.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is the frustration of not having the answers. Then again, even grownups don’t have all the answers.
All my pillows are in a garbage bag in my attic. My blankets are up there too, along with all my dry-cleanable only sweaters and my winter coats, because March fooled me again. I’m sleeping directly on my mattress, with a sheet and comforter, or I guess trying to sleep. Because it was. It happened again. It was lice.
Did you have lice as a kid? I never did. My first experience with this plague was at 24, not even two whole years ago. I jinxed myself writing that last post, I suppose. Never again will I call an “urge” an “itch.”
My body is a petri dish, where germs and bugs and anxiety come to thrive. Growing up, my family affectionately (or at least, I hope affectionately) referred to me as “Sick Girl.” I was sick on every holiday, birthday, or major event you could imagine. I had strep throat so often, I’m pretty sure amoxicillin should have just been on permanent hold for me at the pharmacy. But guess what: I’m still Sick Girl. Or Sick Lady, maybe? One of the things people tend to say when you start teaching preschool is that your immune system is going to be out of this world. What they don’t tell you is that in order to obtain that out of this world immunity, you will be sick. All. The. Time. Yeah, sure, I probably won’t get the flu virus that was going around last year, but this year’s is almost surely going to hit me. Because I am at the forefront of germs. Kids don’t stop getting sick. Germs and viruses and bacteria don’t go away, they just change as we become immune to them. As we adapt, the germs do too. So every time something new is going around, one of the kids is going to get it. I’m usually the next in line.
I’m not sure how much more I can take. Five days ago I had bugs crawling in my head. I’m the girlfriend that probably gave her boyfriend lice. I’m the reason he shaved off his beautiful hair. (R.I.P. beautiful hair.) Last week I learned about something called rectal strep. Have you ever thought about how similar your butthole is to your throat? It’s an image I wish had never entered my head. My anxiety is building, to the point where I constantly feel like I’m walking across a tiny thread stretched out between my bed and my place of work, and the only place I really feel safe is tucked away under the covers, or at least three beers in.
All I’m really trying to say is: be nice to teachers. Because the kids often aren’t, and the sicknesses never are. They just keep coming and coming and coming, like the Energizer Bunny of runny noses and violent coughs. And if you’re a hypochondriac like me, it’s hard to feel safe around those bacteria soaked monsters (I mean children, of course). Soon I will escape the germs. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
I’ve got an itch.
It’s for some sort of change. Well, really, it’s for drastic change. It’s to grow up, to figure myself out, to treat myself better. It’s an itch for immediate change: to feel happier, more energetic, more satisfied, more self-disciplined, stronger instantly. But then, in the back of my head, I’ve got another very simple, very stupid itch.
I’m looking at my unfolded laundry, shuffling through old notebooks, and sipping on my third cup of coffee. The clock reads 9:16, and I just have an itch. I’m not going to scratch.
Being an adult is hard though, right? I’m terrible at it, and yet my job is to take care of little people who are okay with yogurt and snot dripping down their faces, of little people who will ignore you until you lie and say, “I’ve got cookies!” At work I get to build with legos, color, and dance. My job is mostly to play, and when it’s not, my way of handling drama may not be as “teacherly” as some might prefer. I’ve told a little girl to push someone back after being shoved a few too many times. I told a child in the midst of a breakdown over his toppled lego tower that “things fall apart, and you have to rebuild them.” Sometimes I tell kids not to touch me or talk to me... at all... for the rest of the day. But! All that aside, the kids call me a “grownup” so that must mean I am. Do other grownups still call their mom every time they get sick, too?
I spend my days caring for a gaggle of other little people. When I come home, the last person I want to take care of is myself. Where’s the person that’s going to do my taxes and take my garbage out and bring me seltzer when I’m sick and buy me new shoes when my old ones fall apart? Why do I have to remind myself that a box of Cheez-Its and a bottle of wine for dinner is not a good idea? There should be someone to do that for me!
Strangers tell me that there’s “a special place in heaven” for me, that I’m a “saint,” that I must be “so patient” when they find out that I work with preschoolers. There’s not. I’m not. I’m definitely not. Teaching young children is not a saint-worthy occupation--we all lose our tempers, we all yell and say things that we shouldn’t, we ignore fights between kids and let them fend for themselves. There are mornings where I throw temper tantrums about getting out of bed: real life tantrums, kicking and hitting the entire time I’m getting myself dressed. Don’t reserve some special spot up there in the sky for me, I just want a vacation. Because I’ve got another itch.
It’s to smoke a cigarette and it’s to shave the hair off my head. It’s to pick up and move far away, or maybe to buy a house. It’s deciding whether I want to wake up and go for a run in the morning, or just to sleep until my five minute warning. It’s to start applying to schools and to give up eating meat. It’s deciding between a childhood dream, a new hobby, or health and dental insurance. I can’t sort out any of my own thoughts clearly enough because I want the same things that I do not want. I’ve got an itch that I can’t quite place. Because people have stopped saying things like good job and when you grow up and take your time; because people ask a lot of questions. I want to scratch, to gnaw away in my head until I get down to the very bottom of it, the most basic of basic, the essentials. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you do for a living? What’s your career path? When are you getting married? Have you thought about kids? I’ve got an itch. Someone hold onto my hands.
heavy heeled when walking; heavy handed when pouring a drink